Senator to Introduce Bill to Ban Loot Boxes and Microtransactions Aimed at Children

cageymaru

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Senator Josh Hawley announced the introduction of legislation that would ban loot boxes, pay-to-win, and other monetization practices that target children. This includes video game industry practices that entice players to spend real money for competitive advantages over other players. Another example would be games that are engineered with artificial difficulty curves to entice players to spend money on upgrades simply to progress. Candy Crush was cited as an egregious example of this practice. Candy Crush, a free puzzle game featuring a Candy Land style cartoon aesthetic that offers players additional lives on a set timer, allows players to purchase a $149.99 “Luscious Bundle” including 1000 units of its “gold bar” in-game currency, a variety pack of temporary “boosters” to reduce game difficulty, and 24 hours of unlimited lives. The game touts this offering with a medal labeled “Best Value.” Candy Crush Developer King earns parent company Activision Blizzard $2 billion annually, boasting 268 million monthly active users.

Senator Hawley said, “Social media and video games prey on user addiction, siphoning our kids’ attention from the real world and extracting profits from fostering compulsive habits. No matter this business model’s advantages to the tech industry, one thing is clear: there is no excuse for exploiting children through such practices.

“When a game is designed for kids, game developers shouldn’t be allowed to monetize addiction. And when kids play games designed for adults, they should be walled off from compulsive microtransactions. Game developers who knowingly exploit children should face legal consequences.”

 

sharknice

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I don't think candy crush is marketed towards kids. Its biggest demographic is middle aged women.

The clear problem is poor parenting not games. The games doing this are a good opportunity to teach children about gambling and addiction.
 

Derangel

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I don't think candy crush is marketed towards kids. Its biggest demographic is middle aged women.

The clear problem is poor parenting not games. The games doing this are a good opportunity to teach children about gambling and addiction.
Its a combination of things. Parenting can only do so much when a game is specifically designed to trick kids and play on their psychology. Unless a parent is watching what their kid plays every single second then a game can get them to buy things. This law is a fine idea, but there also needs to be an effort to teach parents about the ways these games trick them and their children and good ways to protect them. Its something that also should be taught in schools, along with other things based around the changes brought on by the digital age.
 

Insomniator

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I understand the hate against Pay to Win games, but don't play the game if you don't want to pay.

I don't understand the hate against purely cosmetic lootboxes (overwatch, heroes, dota). No one is forcing you to buy them for any reason. I've NEVER bought one and enjoy opening them as I play.

Its not the games' fault if someone buys 1000 loot boxes to get a skin. If you are an adult - get a life, get help or shut up. If you are a parent - teach your kids and learn how to prevent purchases on your devices.
 

Flogger23m

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I'm inclined to agree with him but I absolutely do fear the implementation and how it will be enforced. Artificially hard games that are designed so you have to spend money on them to play them properly to avoid the excessive grind is certainly a good thing. If that can prevent another Assassin's Creed Odysseus that would be great.
 

Dan_D

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I think you have to be careful with the wording of any such law. If the goal is the elimination of loot boxes and similar practices by developers, then "aimed at children" still leaves loot boxes open as an option for any game not intended for children. Anything with an "M" rating could still feature them. If that's the intent, then that's fine. If the intent is to curb loot boxes as they are considered a form of gambling, then that terminology is way too broad to be effective.
 

Derangel

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I think you have to be careful with the wording of any such law. If the goal is the elimination of loot boxes and similar practices by developers, then "aimed at children" still leaves loot boxes open as an option for any game not intended for children. Anything with an "M" rating could still feature them. If that's the intent, then that's fine. If the intent is to curb loot boxes as they are considered a form of gambling, then that terminology is way too broad to be effective.
I think an argument could be made that a lot of M rated games, especially ones like COD, are aimed at minors as well. Plus, some of the biggest money makers in the form of loot boxes and the like come from games rated T and below. FIFA, for example, is EA's highest earning franchise (by far) year-over-year thanks to Ultimate Team. That said, I agree about the wording. If this is targeted just at loot boxes and P2W mechanics then that leaves a lot of room open for other kinds of predatory schemes and even the term "pay-to-win" is very loose and the exact kind of microtransactions that qualify would need to be spelled out. If the law ends up being too vague then it would likely be deemed as a violation of the industry's first amendment protection.
 

Flogger23m

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Rating itself is a poor indicator because many games rated T may actually cater to adults. The "M" merely means the game is violent or has suggestive content.
 

vegeta535

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I for one loath any kind of MT and what it has done to gaming but I still also have a hard time believing the government will not fuck it up. Companies like EA will find ways around it and then raise the prices of games also.
 

Dan_D

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I think an argument could be made that a lot of M rated games, especially ones like COD, are aimed at minors as well. Plus, some of the biggest money makers in the form of loot boxes and the like come from games rated T and below. FIFA, for example, is EA's highest earning franchise (by far) year-over-year thanks to Ultimate Team. That said, I agree about the wording. If this is targeted just at loot boxes and P2W mechanics then that leaves a lot of room open for other kinds of predatory schemes and even the term "pay-to-win" is very loose and the exact kind of microtransactions that qualify would need to be spelled out. If the law ends up being too vague then it would likely be deemed as a violation of the industry's first amendment protection.
Those games are absolutely aimed at minors. From the beginning the whole rated "M" thing was just a way for game developers to get ahead of some sort of mandatory rating scheme they had no control over. The game industry essentially polices itself, which is the way to go from their perspective. I'd wager that despite the ratings system, there is a huge percentage of the player bases for these games that are under 18 years old. The games being bought by the parents despite the ratings are a way for the video game industry to point the finger at parents when they start complaining about their kids playing violent games or games with sexually provocative content.

I think the loot box system is designed to make money, but children often have no sense of what the family finances look like or think the transactions are so inexpensive that using their parents money to buy this crap is perfectly fine. They don't always understand or care that these charges add up quickly. Companies like EA damn well know that the loot boxes are a form of gambling and don't really care that there are gamers out there with a gambling addiction that will spend vast amounts of money to get what they want from these loot boxes. I have no problem with cosmetics and DLCs as a general rule. I buy some of that stuff myself. However, the pricing models for these things tend to be outrageous and any of the pay to win, or head start type options are absolutely atrocious practices. Regulating the industry to prevent that sort of thing is a good idea as far as I am concerned, but I think we both agree that exactly what the law looks like has to be extremely specific. The problem with lawmakers is that they rarely know a damn thing about the subjects they try and pass legislation about. You only need to look at the firearms industry to see an egregious example of that.

I don't want to soapbox this thread, but the gun industry and the laws surrounding it are something I'm familiar enough with to use as an example. I'm not saying gun control is or isn't good in this particular thread, and I think my opinions on the matter are well known. However, I can point out where many of the laws are entirely ineffective because they laws are either easily bypassed, or because they have no impact on the weapon's ability to do damage. Case in point, a barrel shroud on a shotgun is potentially illegal as are many other specific ergonomic and safety features on firearms. A barrel shroud is a device that keeps you from burning your hands on the barrel while handing a recently fired weapon. Its a safety feature that's demonized based on its look. The whole pistol brace vs. SBR thing is another example. Filing a tax stamp and going through the NFA process to build an SBR or to transfer one to you makes little sense when you can achieve the same results by classifying the weapon as a pistol and equipping it with an arm brace that effectively functions as a stock. There are other ridiculous clauses like short barreled shotguns being configured as classes "firearms". These can be bought like a handgun, but are essentially short barreled shotguns. I could go on and on, but you get the picture.

We could see something very similar in the gaming industry with regards to loot boxes and pay to win mechanics. They need to include very specific verbage in any potential law to achieve their exact goals, whatever they are. Otherwise nothing will change. But as I stated above, specific wording can also get you into trouble as anything done which wasn't accounted for gets bypassed easily. You can also waste time litigating what doesn't need to be addressed such as bayonet lugs on firearms. Despite the feature being illegal, its a moot point as there hasn't been a death by a bayonet in the U.S. since the civil war. At least, not while affixed to a firearm. Litigating away loot boxes sounds like a simple task, but it isn't. As usual, I don't think lawmakers are actually equipped to litigate something they almost certainly do not understand. I don't think someone like Josh Hawley is anymore an expert on video games and loot boxes than Carolyn McCarthy is on firearms. This is another "think of the children" type reaction that's done out of an emotional desire to protect children and further a political agenda at the same time.
 

DeathFromBelow

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I for one loath any kind of MT and what it has done to gaming but I still also have a hard time
believing the government will not fuck it up. Companies like EA will find ways around it and then raise the prices of games also.
When you buy gas at the gas station or food at the grocery store or gamble at a casino there's some level of government regulation involved.

Moving to in-game payments of any sort fundamentally changes the dev/publisher's relationship with their users in a way that oversight and standards become necessary. If dev's don't want to deal with that then they can simply not include micro-transactions in their game.
 

DooLocsta

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I understand the hate against Pay to Win games, but don't play the game if you don't want to pay.

I don't understand the hate against purely cosmetic lootboxes (overwatch, heroes, dota). No one is forcing you to buy them for any reason. I've NEVER bought one and enjoy opening them as I play.

Its not the games' fault if someone buys 1000 loot boxes to get a skin. If you are an adult - get a life, get help or shut up. If you are a parent - teach your kids and learn how to prevent purchases on your devices.
This exactly. Pay to win is one thing but purchasing shit in game to make you look pretty is fine. I will play as default as long as my skill matters.
 

Derangel

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This exactly. Pay to win is one thing but purchasing shit in game to make you look pretty is fine. I will play as default as long as my skill matters.
The problem with that mentality is even cosmetic shit changes how the game is designed. There used to be a time when cosmetic stuff was unlocked by playing the game, not giving your credit card number and buying them.
 

Oldmodder

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Well if people took the recommendation of WHO to heart and only gave their kids 1 hour of screen time every day, but now the screen is some form factor / size are the nanny / granny and what ever parents want it to be to get the kids off their back.
A lot more people should do like me and be responsible and not get any kids,,,, cuz i am pretty sure one way or the other i would frack up in a big way too.
Just like i stopped the mandatory ( at least by Danish standards ) weekend binge drinking way before i turned 25, cuz that stuff i was not able to handle either, so for the past 30 years or so i have only been drinking on 1 day of the year.
 

GoldenTiger

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I understand the hate against Pay to Win games, but don't play the game if you don't want to pay.

I don't understand the hate against purely cosmetic lootboxes (overwatch, heroes, dota). No one is forcing you to buy them for any reason. I've NEVER bought one and enjoy opening them as I play.

Its not the games' fault if someone buys 1000 loot boxes to get a skin. If you are an adult - get a life, get help or shut up. If you are a parent - teach your kids and learn how to prevent purchases on your devices.
This. Why are kids being left with payment methods anyway?
 
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vegeta535

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I understand the hate against Pay to Win games, but don't play the game if you don't want to pay.

I don't understand the hate against purely cosmetic lootboxes (overwatch, heroes, dota). No one is forcing you to buy them for any reason. I've NEVER bought one and enjoy opening them as I play.

Its not the games' fault if someone buys 1000 loot boxes to get a skin. If you are an adult - get a life, get help or shut up. If you are a parent - teach your kids and learn how to prevent purchases on your devices.
All this shit started with cosmetic horse amour years ago. You honestly don't see how this shit killing gaming? They have been trying to train people to accept this bs. You use to be rewarded with cosmetic and unlocks by playing the game with very little of a grind. Fighting games have turned into freaking f2p mobile games that you still have to still pay $60 upfront. Good luck trying to play any sports games without dropping money so you can stay competitive online. When they hiring physiologist to better understand how to manipulate people into buy thus shit. The prey on kids. Kids that are playing games they shouldn't even be targeting to begin with cause it is a M rated game. It is why we getting a mobile Diablo game instead of 4. Companies like EA don't give a fuck about you or any of its IPs fans. Instead of making games better they are working on ways to monetize games. You find all this acceptable?
 
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MavericK

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The problem with that mentality is even cosmetic shit changes how the game is designed. There used to be a time when cosmetic stuff was unlocked by playing the game, not giving your credit card number and buying them.
Indeed. And the fact that this practice has been so "normalized" is what allows exploitation to run rampant.
 

DejaWiz

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Simple solution: make any dev/pub that has a game with loot box/MT rate said games at ESRB AO. What happens after that is the responsibility of the parents.
 

vegeta535

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When you buy gas at the gas station or food at the grocery store or gamble at a casino there's some level of government regulation involved.

Moving to in-game payments of any sort fundamentally changes the dev/publisher's relationship with their users in a way that oversight and standards become necessary. If dev's don't want to deal with that then they can simply not include micro-transactions in their game.
My concern with government getting involved is sure they start regulating mt but what is to say they will stop there. It might open a entire new can of worms. It would shine a spot light on the entire industry and will start to try censoring violent games again. Games are 100 times worse then they were during the last time the government got a boner over trying to ban violent games.
 

singe_101

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All this shit started with cosmetic horse amour years ago.
Foil trading cards seem like cosmetic upgrades to me, popular in the 90s while still building a deck and playing a game. Or lands with better art in Magic: The Gathering.

They were also in MTG Online which didn't even look great in 2002, but some people wanted foil digital cards.
 

modi123

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I'm glad to see someone is doing something about the Canadian Devil.

33823e88-040f-4a0d-b4f4-7e82cc7eced8_screenshot.jpg


 
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Simple solution: make any dev/pub that has a game with loot box/MT rate said games at ESRB AO. What happens after that is the responsibility of the parents.
Honestly this is the best solution I have seen proposed so far. AO ratings kill sales and publishers will avoid an AO rating like the plague.
 

Brian_B

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I've always wondered why State Lotteries have Advertising budgets.

For Adults: Don't like it, don't play them. If you want to blow your money go ahead.

For kids... that's a tricky one. There's a reason most states don't allow kids to play in the Casino or buy lotto tickets. Although, all I can see legitimately occurring here is something similar to COPA: a box to check to say "Yes, sure I'm 18" - and knowing most companies they also included the additional "verification" step of entering a credit card ... because, you know, just to verify your age. I could remotely see it going as far as UK's porn law and requiring a third party age verification, but I can only see that if the game companies are allowed to self-implement (and monetize) that third party (at which point it isn't really third party anymore, hmm)
 

lcpiper

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I don't think candy crush is marketed towards kids. Its biggest demographic is middle aged women.

The clear problem is poor parenting not games. The games doing this are a good opportunity to teach children about gambling and addiction.

My wife is in their number, she's 57.

She bought one of those Luscious Bundle once ...... once.

She's smart, I only had to teach her twice ... once.

:ROFLMAO:




Just joking, she's too smart to fall for that bullshit :sneaky:
 

Grimlaking

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Loot boxes do not belong in games targeted at kids at all, ever. Simply because a parent might check out a game and see it is clean and good and without loot boxes. Only to have them added in an update after launch that the parent doesn't catch until 3 months later they see a 1500 dollar hit to their credit card because their kiddo updated the game and unlocked super super everything boxes for 100 dollars a pop.
 

sharknice

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Loot boxes do not belong in games targeted at kids at all, ever. Simply because a parent might check out a game and see it is clean and good and without loot boxes. Only to have them added in an update after launch that the parent doesn't catch until 3 months later they see a 1500 dollar hit to their credit card because their kiddo updated the game and unlocked super super everything boxes for 100 dollars a pop.
Why does the kid have their credit card?
 

Derangel

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My concern with government getting involved is sure they start regulating mt but what is to say they will stop there. It might open a entire new can of worms. It would shine a spot light on the entire industry and will start to try censoring violent games again. Games are 100 times worse then they were during the last time the government got a boner over trying to ban violent games.
Video games have first amendment protection. The government can not impose any kind of censorship on them as they are, legally, considered art. Even with the current Supreme Court the government would have a very hard, if not impossible, time trying to get that protection revoked.
 

Flogger23m

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For Adults: Don't like it, don't play them. If you want to blow your money go ahead.
The problem is there are very few good games left because a few idiots ruin it for everyone else. It is a trick thing to regulate though. Only things I could think of that can be reasonably enforced:

- For SP games, the game has to be able to be progressed at the players pace. Being forced to repeat areas over and over again or pay for a booster to get through them is clearly designing the game around paying again which is not what you expect when you purchase a story driven game.

- For MP games the game has to continue to be as advertised regardless of paid or free updates. If I pay for a war themed game all cosmetics, paid or not, must be war themed because that is what I paid for. If they start pulling something like R6 Siege the customer should be able to get a full refund at the initial launch MSRP plus any extras (like boosters) that were required to properly progress in the game.
 

Uvaman2

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I hope it passes.
Its weird i must have special, don't listen to squat kids... I guess I didn't pay for the factory upgrades needed to get ones that will listen.
I love it... Talk to your kids.... they'll listen.. oh man I end up with bouts of laughter and grasping for air each time at that one..
As far as access goes.. its no mistake, they make it too easy.. ive been very careful, and I had 2 close calls.. ffing Amazon I allowed some purchases did some things, but it activated everything, had a close call, went back their convoluted shit, disabled all kinds of shit.. was fine for a while until crap changed back.. seemingly on its own... So i turned it back off again ( settings for easy purchases, electronic stuff).. so its really not that simple, and I know these things better than many.
 
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